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 Statehouse News

 
As week three draws to a close, I’m starting to find a rhythm to the Legislature.  While there will always be an unpredictable schedule, I’m getting into the groove of committee and subcommittee meetings and presentations from issue advocacy groups and state agencies.  And this week, we had our first floor debate and vote.

On Monday evening, the House took up the report on whether or not to count the 29 legally-cast absentee ballots in the House District 55 race between Democrat Kayla Koether and Republican Rep. Michael Bergan. I chose to make my first speech as a newly elected State Representative during this debate because of my passionate commitment to civil rights and civic responsibility.  I am proud that my first time speaking on the House floor was in support of counting every vote.

In my speech, I said what’s at stake is the fundamental belief in the integrity of our electoral system of free and fair elections. When we decide that some legally cast votes aren’t valid because we may not like the outcome, we are inadvertently telling Iowans that their voices may not matter at all. I also implored my fellow legislators to consider how important their right to vote is to them and to not take that right away from 29 of our fellow Iowans.  I was deeply discouraged that with a 53-42 vote, Republican lawmakers refused to count the 29 legally-cast ballots.  This debate served as an important reminder that even when you don’t win, the good fight - and being on the right side of history - is a fight worth having.

The next morning, on Tuesday, I had the fortunate opportunity to announce to the Chamber that Easterseals was having its Day on the Hill. Based in House District 38, Easterseals Iowa has a mission to provide services to ensure all people with disabilities or special needs, and their families, have equal opportunities to live, learn, work and play in Iowa communities.  It’s an amazing organization doing great work in our community and I am proud to represent them in the House.

As a state representative, one of my top priorities will always be investing in Iowans. One of the most important ways we do that is by ensuring that all Iowans have equal access to opportunity through a strong public school system. For decades, Iowa was the model for education in the country, but over the last decade anemic state funding for schools hasn’t kept up with rising costs. This has led to educators having to do so much more with fewer resources, school closings, rising class sizes, and fewer opportunities for students.  I’m proud to cosponsor legislation to provide a 3% increase in state funding for schools. It’s a reasonable amount the state can afford, will cover the cost of inflation, and it’s a strategic investment that will begin to reverse the declines we’ve seen with low funding.

 School funding must also address equity and the cost of transportation disproportionately affects some districts more than others. Last year, additional dollars were appropriated to provide equity for rural districts needing help with transportation costs but this was a one-time deal. I am pleased to cosponsor a bill this year that will make that funding permanent because every kid in Iowa deserves the best education, regardless of where they live.  I am hopeful that we can continue to find bipartisan consensus on a funding issue that affects so many districts across our state.
 
On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to meet members of Decoding Dyslexia, an organization to raise dyslexia awareness and empower families to influence policymakers and educators on best practices to support students in our public schools. I was happy to learn the last General Assembly established a Dyslexia Task Force to consider issues such as student screening, teacher preparation and professional development, classroom accommodations, and assistive technologies. I look forward to receiving the task force’s recommendations when they are shared with the Legislature in November. It’s so important to ensure all our kids have the ability to learn and be successful in the classroom.

Finally, in case you haven’t heard, the Ankeny Area Chamber Commerce has moved their legislative coffees on Saturdays to Fridays over the lunch hour.  They are still free and open to the public and sandwiches will be provided at no cost.  Our first forum will be on Friday, February 8 from 11:30am – 1pm at Vintage Hills Cooperatives, 1370 SW Magazine Road in Ankeny. I hope to see you there!

As for my weekly office hours, we may need to change the day of the week.  But for now, they are still on Mondays at Main Street Café in Ankeny from 9:45 - 11:15am.  I love hearing from my constituents and would like to speak with you about any questions or concerns you might have.


Representative Matson gathers with constituents at a listening post at the DMACC campus on Saturday, January 26, 2019. Some of the constituents asked about the SAVE bill, IPERS, collective bargaining and proposed child care legislation.



Representative Matson and Representative Landon speak with members of the Iowa Pharmacy Association in the House Chamber on Tuesday, January 29, 2019. Ashley Loeffelholz, Natasha Ripley and Craig Logemann all represent Ankeny and brought up improving efficiency and access to help pharmacists do a better job at treating patients.



Representative Matson meets Sherri Nielson, President /CEO of Easterseals on Tuesday, January 29, 2019 in the Rotunda in the Capitol. Representative Matson was proud to announce to the House Chamber the arrival of Easterseals and encouraged all of her fellow representatives to learn more about the important work the organization does.



Representative Matson met with Julie DeLanoit and Decoding Dyslexia in the Capitol on Wednesday, January 30, 2019. They spoke about the Dyslexia Task Force established by the last General Assembly and what the group hopes will be recommended to help prepare teachers to better handle learning with dyslexia.



Representative Matson shoes Community Support Advocates Angela Wacker and her two daughters Carlie and Maegan Wacker the House Chamber. Representative Matson and Wacker spoke about mental health services and proposed legislation to take Medicaid’s LTSS patients out from managed care and place back under state oversight.


News from the Statehouse


Republican Lawmakers Throw Out 29 Legally Cast Ballots

Twenty-nine Iowans who legally and in good faith cast absentee ballots in the 2018 General Election will not have their votes counted.  On a party line vote, Republican lawmakers refused to count the ballots that were mailed in on time to the local county auditor and verified by the post office with a bar code, but did not contain a postmark.  The vote came on the Election Contest filed in House District 55, which was decided by just nine votes.

On the recommendation of the Iowa Secretary of State, the local county auditor had refused to count the ballots after the November election, prompting the Election Contest.  After a special Election Contest Committee was created, it met the first week of the session to hear opening arguments from each side’s representatives, but refused to hear from witnesses or listen to witness testimony even at the request of Democratic Lawmakers.  The committee acted in direct violation of Iowa law which gives the person contesting the election the right to have the ballots opened and counted.

During House debate this week, Democratic lawmakers simply asked for the law to be followed and have the ballots counted, regardless of the outcome. Republican lawmakers refused to have the legally cast ballots counted and threw out the 29 ballots.


2018 Condition of Education Report Released

Iowa's 2018 Condition of Education Report has been released.  Among the highlights of the report include that enrollment is up in Iowa's public schools compared to last year by over 1,100 students.  

Other highlights include:
  • 73.4% is the percent of students in the class of 2018 that took chemistry, up from 71.9% the year before.
  • 47.4% is the percent of students in the class of 2018 that took a higher level mathematics class including calculus, statistics and trigonometry.  This is up from 46.2% the year before.  
  • $57,045 is Iowa’s average teacher salary according to the report for the 2017-18 school year.  This is an increase from the year before ($55,703). Iowa’s average teacher salary ranks 22nd nationally according to the report for the 2017-18 school year.

Over the last several years, the majority party has tried to eliminate Iowa's teacher licensure test requirements in order to relax teacher licensing standards.  However, education advocates have argued that in order to attract more teachers to the profession and have them come and stay in Iowa, wages for teachers should be more competitive.  A mid-ranking for teacher pay is not a strong position to demand excellence in the classroom or put us on the path to making Iowa number one in education again.  Iowa's minimum starting salary for teachers by state law is $33,500.  

Last session the majority party removed the state law that set a goal of having class size for grades K-3 at 17.   National studies indicate that lower class sizes have an impact on student performance in these crucial early grades.  According to the Condition of Education 2018 report, the current average class size for grades K-3 is 20 to 35. To raise student performance and learn the basics, education advocates have called for lowering Iowa's class size.  

Iowa continues to have one of the highest percentages of preschool participation in the country with over 26,000 preschoolers served in the 2017-18 school year.  The Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program provides an opportunity for all four-year-old children in Iowa to enter school ready to learn by expanding access to research-based preschool curricula.  However, waiting lists for parents to get their child into a program continue.  Other states are expanding their programs to three-year olds.  Iowa should also look at expanding its hours of preschool in a school day from the current minimum 2 hours a day, or 10 hours per week.  

The Condition of Education Report, 2018 can be found at: https://educateiowa.gov/sites/files/ed/documents/2018ConditionOfEducation.pdf


Read More News from the Statehouse


Federal Government Shutdown Over, Local Impact Still Unknown
Six-Week Abortion Ban Declared Unconstitutional
Court Rules Traffic Cameras Legal
Iowa is Number One Again in High School Graduation Rates
New Apprenticeship Funding for Iowa Organizations
Updating Protections for Seniors and Children Discussed



Contact Representative Heather Matson

MatsonforIowa.com

Capitol
1009 Grand Ave
Iowa House of Representatives
Des Moines, IA 50319
515-281-3221
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1802 SW Prairie Trail Parkway
Ankeny, IA 50023
515-201-1877
 
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